News and Resources

The user analytics duopoly: Google and Flurry are well ahead of competition

Usage analytics tools usually have a very simple integration which enables developer to get basic information about their active user base – size, usage frequency, device models, OS versions and app versions in use. More custom integration enables developers to log events to the usage analytics platforms when users perform specific actions within the app. This allows developers to track which features or functions are most use, measure conversion rates and pinpoint where in UI flows users are giving up if actions are not being completed.

User analytics services gain in importance as competition intensifies

User analytics services are becoming increasingly important as competition in app development continues to rise. The ability to track how users interact with apps is extremely valuable for both developers and product managers and to some extent acts as a proxy for user feedback. The absence of a direct two-way communication channel between developers and users means that user analytics often provide the only channel from user to developer. 28% of developers use user analytics services overall, but usage rises with the number of apps developed, reaching 39% among developers working on more than 10 apps per year.

Analytics services seem to be significantly more important among iOS developers (used by 39% of iOS developers) compared to other platforms. This suggests that iOS developers take more interest overall in their user base, a fact that could indicate a more professional approach to development. Among the top platforms, user analytics tools are the least popular with BlackBerry developers (15%). BlackBerry has suffered high churn of its affluent user base and developers sticking with the platform are likely to be working on outsourced ports with little interest about the way that users interact with an app. Among the other major platforms around a quarter of developers use user analytics, with Android being slightly ahead (28% of Android developers).


Google and Flurry lead the pack

The picture in user analytics services is quite telling with two services dominating: Google and Flurry. Google has traditionally been strong in web analytics but it has now extended its stronghold on to mobile platforms commanding a 69% mindshare among developers employing User Analytics services. However, its dominance is mainly observed among HTML developers and although it leads on Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone, its lead is by a small margin. Runner-up Flurry, is used by 49% of developers employing User Analytics services but is the leading User Analytics service on iOS (64% vs. 58% for Google). Flurry, being one of the pioneers in User Analytics has grown into one of the heavyweights in app ecosystems, and is recognised as a de-facto analytics platform for developers. Beyond these two services, there are numerous smaller players vying for third place, currently held by Testflight Live, a service recently acquired by ad mediation service Burstly in a move that is quite typical of the synergies between different tools and services that drive consolidation in the marketplace.

User Analytics services are stronger in Media apps (News/sports/weather/magazines) as well as in Entertainment apps, used by 36% of developers working on such apps. However, they are more or less popular across all app categories, but less so in Education/Reference apps. Google analytics is stronger overall across all these categories, with the exception of Games where both Google and Flurry are equally strong.

Minimizing overhead is the priority

Developers opt for services that are easy to integrate within their apps or that are available across several platforms as indicated by 51% and 49% of developers using user analytics services. I.e. the main priority for developers is to minimise the overheads associated with using user analytics, while optimising analytics comes third: only 31% of developers using user analytics services are concerned with the depth of analytics, and only 13% are interested in real-time reports. Cost is a also deciding factor as pointed out by 28% of developers employing user analytics.

We asked developers using User Analytics services to indicate the number of active users of their most popular app. Excluding those apps that have more than 500,000 users, developers’ most popular apps have an average active user base of 56,000 users, although this number varies widely within platforms and across platforms. iOS developers indicated 70,000 users vs. 51,000 users on average for Android. The median user base, is 27,500 users for iOS and 15,500 for Android, indicating that while Android commands a higher market share, iOS users engage more actively with the platform when it comes to apps with less than 500,000 active users.

[doritos_report location=’DE13 Article – User analytics’]

Which user analytics tools are other developers using?

[toggle title=”Important things to know about this interactive graph”]

  • All the filters in the graph refer to survey questions in which respondents could select multiple answers. This means that there is no direct link between the filter and the use of the tool. For example, filtering on “Android” means that the respondents develop Android apps. It doesn’t imply that they use the tools for their Android apps specifically, or even that the tool supports the Android platform. Use filters as a guideline only.
  • Keep an eye on the sample size. If the sample size is low, the graph doesn’t offer strong conclusions about the popularity of different tools. Use your good judgment when making decisions.[/toggle]

    Find the best analytics tool for you!

    [sectors ids=’40’]

Business Platforms

The Darker Side of App Store Optimization

As long as there are algorithms impacting revenues there will be people trying to game them. In the world of mobile apps there are two sorts of algorithm that can be routes to success, chart rankings and search rankings. Chart rankings are very simple and typically just use some time-weighted download volume. Search rankings are much more complex, involving keywords, reviews and other social or similarity-based data as well as downloads. Developers can use a range of tactics to improve their ranking in these algorithms, some of them much more legitimate than others.

There’s no such thing as a bad download

Whilst there are very good practices for optimising search ranking, such as using tools that monitor competitors and analyse their keyword usage to suggest improvements to your own, the single most effective way to improve all rankings is to increase downloads. For paid apps, all downloads generate revenue, whether the app gets used or not – temporarily reducing the price or making the app free is an effective technique for boosting downloads, which boosts rankings and subsequent revenue when the price is returned to normal. For apps that are free anyway, it can similarly be worth spending some of the revenue earned through advertising or in-app purchases to increase downloads. On one level this is obvious, it’s worth spending money to market the app and try to reach new users. However, the winner takes all nature of app store discovery at present makes it worthwhile for some developers to chase downloads purely to enhance their rankings. Even users who will never open the app are worth attracting if they can be acquired for a low enough cost.

Paid placement

There are lots of advertising options available that drive users to your app in the store. The vast majority of them are pay-per-click and thus cannot be used cost effectively to inflate downloads of an app that doesn’t generate significant revenue per user anyway. Most of these are clearly advertising products, others look like app discovery tools to end users. Hooked is a good example of an app that blurs the line between discovery and advertising. They have a popular social discovery app for Android games where developers can pay to generate installs. For developers this is a very logical option because they have a fixed cost for installs which they can compare against average revenue per user. On the other hand, users may believe they’re getting a recommendation when in reality they are seeing an advert. It’s the same argument that surrounded paid placement for search results in the days before Google launched AdWords.

Cross Promotion

Another way to reach users is through similar apps. Apps promoting one another is a great way to reach a common user base. There are several cross-promotion networks with a variety of business models. Ironically the one with the name most suggestive of ranking manipulation, Chartboost, is at the most ethical end; they provide completely free technology for developers to organize their own cross-promotions and also a marketplace to connect developers where they take a cut of the transactions. At the same time, the most popular cross-promotion network (according to our latest survey), Tapjoy, plays much closer to the lines of acceptable conduct. One (and in fairness it should be emphasised only one of several) of Tapjoy’s services is incentivised downloads, a practice that Apple have repeatedly cracked down on – they pay users (in virtual rewards such as in-game currency) to download apps which have paid for that service (in cash). Clearly a large fraction of people who will download other apps to earn a bit of virtual currency are those unable or unwilling to pay for the same. These users almost by definition are unlikely to monetize, so the only obvious reason to seek them out is to increase rankings in order to be discovered by other paying users that would be more expensive to reach directly.


At the extreme end of ranking manipulation, with no pretence of being anything else, is Shaubang. This manipulation is primarily practiced on Apple’s App Store, made possible by the fact that a credit card is not required for an iTunes account in China. Companies with millions of accounts make use of extremely cheap local labour to pay people to download and review apps. These services often guarantee to boost an app to a desired category ranking for a fixed fee. This practice is heavily frowned upon by store owners but also extremely hard to police, since it involves real users (sometimes bot-assisted for efficiency) with real accounts.

Where’s the harm?

Users are mostly getting what they want out of these deals and so are the developers involved. Store owners have higher download stats to boast about. Even at the extreme end we have job creation in China. The main people losing out are the developers not taking advantage of these strategies. However, if ranking manipulation becomes the norm rather than a fringe behaviour then two problems become very serious. First, the top ranked apps are simply the ones that paid the most to be there, rather than the best ones – this makes discovery of genuinely great apps harder and reduces the overall perception of app quality. Second, a feedback cycle further concentrates revenue at the top of rankings – only those who pay to be at the top can afford sufficient manipulation to stay there and the rankings will begin to stagnate. App store owners need to ensure their markets are as honest and fair as possible, or users and honest developers will suffer in the long run.


Developer Economics 2013 Survey: iOS vs Android shoot-out

iOS is the best platform for generating revenue,
Android provides a better development environment

Developer Economics 2013 - Android vs iOS shoot-out
We asked developers to pick the top platform, among all platforms they have used or are planning to use, on a number of different aspects of mobile development such as discovery, learning curve and monetisation. We then compared how iOS and Android fare against each other, based on the opinions of developers using both platforms.

The outcome is a tie when it comes to user base, with developers’ opinions divided between the two platforms. However, iOS was ranked higher on 4 out of the six remaining categories, with a clear advantage on app discovery (50% iOS vs. 23% Android) and revenue potential (66% iOS vs. 12% Android). The perception that iOS provides better monetisation opportunities is well engrained with developers and is backed by Developer Economics 2013 survey data. App discovery has developed into a problem for both platforms given the size of their app stores, which now well exceed 700,000 apps. However, despite some initial complaints about the new curation model on App Store, the developer verdict is quite clear on app discovery, which goes to iOS. iOS also leads, but with a smaller margin on development environment and documentation & support.

Android has a clear advantage on development cost (32% Android vs. 14% iOS) and a small lead on the learning curve ( 26% Android vs. 20% iOS). However the total score for the two platforms on the latter two aspects was lower than 50% indicating that most developers that use both Android and iOS believe that neither is best in these areas. In fact 24% of developers among those using Android and iOS indicated that HTML is the best platform in terms of learning curve while 7% indicated that its Windows Phone.

For most developers, the platform perceptions boil down to a decision about which platform to prioritise, i.e. where to invest more resources and which of the two platforms to develop for first. Several other factors may come into play when making a decision on the “lead platform”, such as prior experience or local demographics, but it is fair to say that iOS comes out as the winner in developer perceptions. This is consistent with our figures on lead platforms: among developers using iOS and Android, iOS is the lead platform for 42% of developers, while Android is the lead platform for 31% of developers.

[doritos_report location=’DE13 Article – iOS vs Android shoot-out’]


The changing landscape of app discovery

[The explosive growth of app ecosystems is creating serious bottlenecks in app discovery that only popular apps can overcome. Having 700,000 apps is great for platform vendors, but not so great for developers, whose apps are lost in the heap. Andreas Pappas takes a look at the app discovery problem and considers whether social discovery is a better solution than the alternatives available today. This post also appeared on the VisionMobile blog. Follow Andreas on Twitter: @pappasandreas]